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How Is a Heart Murmur Diagnosed?

Must murmurs are harmless, but, if detected, the appropriate tests should be done to determine the severity. Heart murmurs are typically detected in two ways: during infancy and during regular physicals.

Doctors use a stethoscope to listen to heart sounds and heart murmurs. They may detect heart murmurs during routine checkups or while checking for another condition.

If a congenital heart defect causes a murmur, it's often heard at birth or during infancy. Abnormal heart murmurs caused by other heart problems can be heard in patients of any age.

Specialist Involved

Primary care doctors usually refer people who have abnormal heart murmurs to cardiologists or pediatric cardiologists for future care and testing.

Cardiologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating heart problems in adults. Pediatric cardiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating heart problems in children.

Physical Exam

Your doctor will carefully listen to your heart or your child's heart with a stethoscope to find out whether a murmur is innocent or abnormal. They will listen to the loudness, location, and timing of the murmur. This will help your doctor diagnose the cause of the murmur.

Your doctor also may:

  • Ask about your medical and family histories
  • Do a complete physical exam. They will look for signs of illness or physical problems. For example, your doctor may look for a bluish color on your skin. In infants, doctors may look for delayed growth and feeding problems.
  • Ask about your symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath (especially with physical exertion), dizziness, or fainting

Evaluating Heart Murmurs

When evaluating a heart murmur, your doctor will pay attention to many things, such as:

  • How faint or loud the sound is. Your doctor will grade the murmur on a scale of one to six (one is very faint and six is very loud)
  • When the sound occurs in the cycle of the heartbeat.
  • Where the sound is heard in the chest and whether it also can be heard in the neck or back
  • Whether the sound has a high, medium, or low pitch
  • How long the sound lasts
  • How breathing, physical activity, or a change in body position affects the sound

Diagnostic Tests and Procedures

If your doctor thinks you or your child has an abnormal heart murmur, they may recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG
  • Echocardiography

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Why The Heart Hospital Baylor?

The Heart Hospital Baylor provides a comprehensive range of outpatient cardiology diagnostic, treatment, and management services through its Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Care (CACC), with locations in Plano, Denton, and McKinney. Owned and operated by The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, the CACC offers multidisciplinary clinic-based solutions when you need outpatient cardiology evaluation, treatment, diagnostic imaging services, educational consults and more for complex and/or chronic vascular and heart conditions.

To schedule an appointment call 469.814.3480.

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